5 Important Stories Buried In The Week Before Christmas

Thursday marked the last day of term before MPs left Parliament for a two-week recess.

As is now tradition, Governments tend to rush out unpopular decisions quietly in written and oral statements from ministers with the hope a blitz of announcements and people winding down for Christmas will help provide cover.

This year was notable for two pieces of embarrassing news for the Government being even more of a distraction: Damian Green being forced to resign over sex harassment and pornography allegations, and Tory Minister Mark Garnier being cleared of breaching the ministerial code after asking his secretary to buy sex toys.

Here are five bits of important news stories that may have been lost in the mix:

1 20,000 Badgers Culled – Twice As Many As Last Year

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed almost 20,000 badgers were killed this year as part of a government plan to control the spread of bovine TB.

Ministers called the controversial cull “effective” as almost twice as many badgers were killed this autumn after a massive expansion of the cull zones.

The Green Party labelled the cull ‘”inhumane, unscientific and disgraceful”.

2 U-Turn On Excluding Foster Carers From Claiming Free Childcare

The Government announced foster children will be entitled to the same amount of free childcare as other children, having previously excluded carers “if the child is your foster child”.

The u-turn was announced by children and families minister Robert Goodwill during a Westminster Hall debate led by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who campaigned on the issue.

Excluding foster child carers from the government’s flagship childcare policy, which increased the potential number of free hours a week for three- and four-year-olds up to 30 in total, was labelled discriminatory and inexplicable.

3 Delay To Contaminated Blood Inquiry

In a written ministerial statement, the Cabinet Office confirmed a judge will head the inquiry into contaminated blood scandal.

The name and terms of reference are to be announced in New Year, but Labour MP Diana Johnson expressed concern at an apparent delay.

“Disappointing that nearly six months on we still don’t have a Chair,” the MP, who has led campaigning on the issue, said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

4 Cuts To Public Health Budgets

Another written ministerial statement confirmed a cut to councils’ public health grants.

Funding is being slashed by £531million between 2015/16 and 2019/2020, says the Local Government Association.

Critics said the move was a sign Whitehall sees prevention services to tackle teenage pregnancy, child obesity and substance misuse as “nice-to-do but ultimately non-essential”.

5 High Court Ruling On ‘Discriminatory’ Disability Benefit Changes

On Thursday, the High Court ruled that government changes to the disability benefit system “blatantly discriminate” against people with mental health problems.

Ruling that the eform was in breach of people’s human rights, it found an amendment to personal independence payment (PIP) “cannot not be objectively justified”.

The case could see more than 160,000 people being entitled to the welfare payment.